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Margrett Nickerson

From: Florida

American Guide, (Negro Writers' Unit)

Rachel A. Austin, Field Worker
Jacksonville, Florida
December 5, 1936


In her own vernacular, Margrett Nickerson was "born to William A. Carr,
on his plantation near Jackson, Leon County, many years ago."

When questioned concerning her life on this plantation, she continues:
"Now honey, its been so long ago, I don' 'member ev'ything, but I will
tell you whut I kin as near right as possible; I kin 'member five uf
Marse Carr's chillun; Florida, Susan, 'Lijah, Willie and Tom; cose Carr
never 'lowed us to have a piece uf paper in our hands."

"Mr. Kilgo was de fust overseer I 'member; I was big enough to tote meat
an' stuff frum de smokehouse to de kitchen and to tote water in and git
wood for granny to cook de dinner and fur de sucklers who nu'sed de
babies, an' I carried dinners back to de hands."

"On dis plantation dere was 'bout a hunnerd head; cookin' was done in de
fireplace in iron pots and de meals was plenty of peas, greens,
cornbread burnt co'n for coffee--often de marster bought some coffee fur
us; we got water frum de open well. Jes 'fore de big gun fiahed dey
fotched my pa frum de bay whar he was makin' salt; he had heerd dam say
'de Yankees is coming and wuz so glad."

"Dere wuz rice, cotton, co'n, tater fields to be tended to and cowhides
to be tanned, thread to be spinned, and thread wuz made into ropes for
plow lines."

"Ole Marse Carr fed us, but he did not care what an' whar, jes so you
made dat money and when yo' made five and six bales o' cotton, said:
'Yo' ain don' nuthin'."

"When de big gun fiahed on a Sattidy me and Cabe and Minnie Howard wuz
settin' up co'n fur de plowers to come 'long and put dirt to 'em; Carr
read de free papers to us on Sunday and de co'n and cotton had to be
tended to--he tole us he wuz goin' to gi' us de net proceeds (here she
chuckles), what turned out to be de co'n and cotton stalks. Den he asked
dem whut would stay wid him to step off on de right and dem dat wuz
leavin' to step off on da left."

"My pa made soap frum ashes when cleaning new ground--he took a hopper
to put de ashes in, made a little stool side de house put de ashes in
and po'red water on it to drip; at night after gittin' off frum work
he'd put in de grease and make de soap--I made it sometime and I make it
now, myself."

"My step-pa useter make shoes frum cowhides fur de farm han's on de
plantation and fur eve'body on de plantation 'cept ole Marse and his
fambly; dey's wuz diffunt, fine."

"My grandma wus Pheobie Austin--my mother wuz name Rachel Jackson and my
pa wus name Edmund Jackson; my mother and uncle Robert and Joe wus stol'
frum Virginia and fetched here. I don' know no niggers dat 'listed in de
war; I don' 'member much 'bout de war only when de started talking 'bout
drillin' men fur de war, Joe Sanders was a lieutenant. Marse Carr's
sons, Tom and Willie went to de war."

"We didn' had no doctors, only de grannies; we mos'ly used hippecat
(ipecac) fur medicine."

"As I said, Kilgo was de fust overseer I ricollec', then Sanders wuz
nex' and Joe Sanders after him; John C. Haywood came in after Sanders
and when de big gun fiahed old man Brockington wus dere. I never saw a
nigger sold, but dey carried dem frum our house and I never seen 'em no

"We had church wid de white preachers and dey tole us to mind our
masters and missus and we would be saved; if not, dey said we wouldn'.
Dey never tole us nothin' 'bout Jesus. On Sunday after workin' hard all
de week dey would lay down to sleep and be so tired; soon ez yo' git
sleep, de overseer would come an' wake you up an' make you go to

"When de big gun fiahed old man Carr had six sacks uf confederate money
whut he wuz carrying wid him to Athens Georgia an' all de time if any uf
us gals whar he wuz an' ax him 'Marse please gi us some money' (here she
raises her voice to a high, pitiful tone) he says' I aint got a cent'
and right den he would have a chis so full it would take a whol' passle
uv slaves to move it. He had plenty corn, taters, pum'kins, hogs, cows
ev'ything, but he didn' gi us nuthin but strong plain close and plenty
to eat; we slept in ole common beds and my pa made up little cribs and
put hay in dem fur de chillun."

"Now ef you wanted to keep in wid Marster Carr don' drap you shoes in de
field an' leave 'em--he'd beat you; you mus' tote you' shoes frum one
field to de tother, didn' a dog ud be bettern you. He'd say 'You
gun-haided devil, drappin' you' shoes and eve'thin' over de field'."

"Now jes lis'en, I wanna tell you all I kin, but I wants to tell it
right; wait now, I don' wanna make no mistakes and I don' wanna lie on
nobody--I ain' mad now and I know taint no use to lie, I takin' my time.
I done prayed an' got all de malice out o' my heart and I ain' gonna
tell no lie fer um and I ain' gonna tell no lie on um. I ain' never seed
no slaves sold by Marster Carr, he wuz allus tellin' me he wuz gonna
sell me but he never did--he sold my pa's fust wife though."

"Dere wuz Uncle George Bull, he could read and write and, chile, de
white folks didn't lak no nigger whut could read and write. Carr's wife
Miss Jane useter teach us Sunday School but she did not 'low us to tech
a book wid us hands. So dey useter jes take uncle George Bull and beat
him fur nothin; dey would beat him and take him to de lake and put him
on a log and shev him in de lake, but he always swimmed out. When dey
didn' do dat dey would beat him tel de blood run outen him and den trow
him in de ditch in de field and kivver him up wid dirt, head and years
and den stick a stick up at his haid. I wuz a water toter and had stood
and seen um do him dat way more'n once and I stood and looked at um tel
dey went 'way to de other rows and den I grabbed de dirt ofen him and
he'd bresh de dirt off and say 'tank yo', git his hoe and go on back to
work. Dey beat him lak dat and he didn' do a thin' to git dat sort uf

"I had a sister name Lytie Holly who didn' stand back on non' uv em;
when dey'd git behin' her, she'd git behin' dem; she wuz dat stubbo'n
and when dey would beat her she wouldn' holler and jes take it and go
on. I got some whuppin's wid strops but I wanter tell you why I am
cripple today:

"I had to tote tater vines on my haid, me and Fred' rick and de han's
would be a callin fur em all over de field but you know honey, de two uv
us could' git to all uvum at once, so Joe Sanders would hurry us up by
beatin' us with strops and sticks and run us all over de tater ridge; he
cripple us both up and den we couldn' git to all uv em. At night my pa
would try to fix me up cose I had to go back to work nex' day. I never
walked straight frum dat day to dis and I have to set here in dis chair
now, but I don' feel mad none now. I feels good and wants to go to
he'ven--I ain' gonna tel no lie on white nor black cose taint no use."

"Some uv de slaves run away, lots uv um. Some would be cot and when dey
ketched em dey put bells on em; fust dey would put a iron ban' 'round
dey neck and anuder one 'round de waist and rivet um tegether down de
back; de bell would hang on de ban' round de neck so dat it would ring
when de slave walked and den dey wouldn' git 'way. Some uv dem wore dese
bells three and four mont'n and when dey time wuz up dey would take em
off 'em. Jake Overstreet, George Bull, John Green, Ruben Golder, Jim
Bradley and a hos' uv others wore dem bells. Dis is whut I know, not
whut somebody else say. I seen dis myself. En missus, when de big gun
fiahed, de runerway slaves comed out de woods frum all directions. We
wuz in de field when it fiahed, but I 'members dey wuz all very glad."

"After de war, we worked but we got pay fur it."

"Ole man Pierce and others would call some kin' of a perlitical
(political) meetin' but I could never understan' whut dey wuz talkin'
'bout. We didn' had no kin' uv schools and all I knows but dem is dat I
sent my chillums in Leon and Gadsden Counties."

"I had lots uv sisters and brothers but I can't 'member de names of none
by Lytie, Mary, Patsy and Ella; my brothers, is Edmond and Cornelius
Jackson. Cornelius is livin' now somewhere I think but I don' never see

"When de big gun fiahed I was a young missy totin' cotton to de scales
at de ginhouse; ef de ginhouse wuz close by, you had to tote de cotton
to it, but ef it wuz fur 'way wagins ud come to de fields and weigh it
up and take it to de ginhouse. I was still livin' near Lake Jackson and
we went to Abram Bailey's place near Tallahassee. Carr turned us out
without nuthin and Bailey gi'd us his hammoc' and we went dere fur a
home. Fust we cut down saplin's fur we didn' had no house, and took de
tops uv pines and put on de top; den we put dirt on top uv dese saplin's
and slep' under dem. When de rain would come, it would wash all de dirt
right down in our face and we'd hafter buil' us a house all over ag'in.
We didn' had no body to buil' a house fur us, cose pa was gone and ma
jes had us gals and we cut de saplin's fer de man who would buil' de
house fer us. We live on Bailey's place a long time and fin'lly buil' us
a log cabin and den we went frum dis cabin to Gadsden County to a place
name Concord and dere I stay tel I come here 'fore de fiah."

"I had twelve chillun but right now missus, I can only 'member dese
names: Robert, 'Lijah, Edward, Cornelius, Littie, Rachel and Sophie."

"I was converted in Leon County and after freedom I joined de Methodist
church and my membership is now in Mount Zion A.M.E. Church in
Jacksonville, Florida."

"My fust husban was Nelson Walker and de las' one was name Dave
Nickerson. I don' think I was 20 years old when de big gun fiahed, but I
was more' 17--I reckon I wuz a little older den Flossie May (a niece who
is 17 years of age) is now." (1)

Mrs. Nickerson, according to her information must be about 89 or 90
years of age, sees without glasses having never used them; she does not
read or write but speaks in a convincing manner. She has most of her
teeth and a splendid appetite. She spends her time sitting in a
wheel-chair sewing on quilts. She has several quilts that she has
pieced, some from very small scraps which she has cut without the use of
any particular pattern. She has a full head of beautiful snowy white
hair and has the use of her limbs, except her legs, and is able to do
most things for herself. (2)

She lives with her daughter at 1600 Myrtle Avenue, Jacksonville,


1. Personal interview with Margrett Nickerson, 1600 Myrtle Avenue,
Jacksonville, Florida

2. Sophia Nickerson Starke, 1600 Myrtle Avenue, daughter of Margrett
Nickerson, Jacksonville, Florida

[TR: References moved from beginning of interview.]

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